Saturday, 17 December 2016

O Wisdom: O Sapienta: an Advent response

It's the 'run-up to Christmas' - in case you hadn't noticed. We are entering the last lap - or the 4th week of Advent if you observe the western Christian calendar.

'Mary's Song' (the Magnificat) is regularly sung at Evening Prayer or Vespers in the Catholic and Anglican traditions. There's a tradition in many places to add particular antiphons to the singing or chanting of the Magnificat during this last week of Advent.

In Christian music an antiphon is a sung response to a religious text. The sequence of 7 antiphons sung during the 7 evenings before Christmas Eve are known as the 'O Antiphons' because they all begin with O. The well known Advent carol, 'O come, o come, Emmanuel' is based on the Advent sequence of antiphons.

This evening the antiphon is 'O wisdom' in English or 'O Sapienta' in Latin. To illustrate this I have used a stained glass image of the young Christ teaching the elders in the temple, who were impressed by his wisdom.

The 'O Sapienta' antiphon is based on Isaiah 11: 2 - 3 and Isaiah 28: 29. In English the words of today's antiphon are:
"O wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, 
reaching from one end to the other, 
mightily and sweetly ordering all things: 
come and teach us the way of prudence."

If ever the world needed wisdom it is now. 'Digitalnun' has written today in 'O Sapienta and our Need of Wisdom 2016' about how our idea of God's wisdom is "too tame" and not like human wisdom. She points out that divine wisdom encompasses strength and gentleness and has love at its heart:
"To speak of the mystery of love in a world grown cold and cruel seems, at best, ridiculously optimistic. We look at Aleppo, we look at our political parties, we look at the Church, and all we seem to see is bickering and division — and in the midst of it, the result of all that division, we see immense suffering, the suffering from which Christ comes to redeem us. We forget that the Wisdom of God is not like our human wisdom. We forget what I called the perenially youthful, endlessly creative aspects of divine Wisdom. Perhaps we should re-think our view of wisdom, with both a capital and a lower-case ‘w’. As we pray tonight’s antiphon, let us do so with hope in our hearts. His love will never fail or forsake us, and his love comes to us at Christmas not as an abstraction but as Jesus Christ our Lord."

Here is the 'O Wisdom' antiphon beautifully sung in Latin, using Gregorian chant.






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